10 Tips for Traveling With Medication: Prescriptions, Flying, Insurance and More

illustration of medication in pill bottles with check mark

Nearly half of all Americans have taken at least one prescription medication in the last 30 days – and that number skyrockets to 85% of people over 60. If you’re one of those people, and you plan to travel with your medication, here are some common-sense tips for traveling safely with prescriptions and other meds.

Tips to Travel With Medication

Start with a plan

Traveling healthy means much more than packing your prescriptions. It starts with getting yourself as healthy as possible for travel before you leave home, packing the right prescription drugs and the appropriate paperwork, and conducting yourself in a healthy manner when you’re traveling.

Of course you want to pack your prescriptions and scripts – but you also want to pack appropriate common sense, so that you avoid destinations with particulate-heavy air that might trigger your asthma, or you steer clear of the spicy street food that doesn’t play well with your acid-reflux.

Planning ahead also includes considering travel insurance that can help with medical and medication-related issues on your trip. Plans from Generali Global Assistance include Medical and Dental coverage and services that meet those requirements.

Also read: Why You Might Need to Buy Medical Coverage Before You Travel

See the doctor before you leave

Whether you visit a travel-medicine specialist or your family doctor, it’s a good idea to schedule a visit before you leave. Discuss where you’re going, talk about any health concerns with your destination, and update your vaccinations.

Also, ask your doctor to write a letter describing your medical conditions and medicines you take, including generic names.

Read about: Travel insurance with pre-existing medical conditions 

man talking with doctor holding papers

Talk to your insurance company

Call your insurance company before you leave, tell them you’re going to be traveling, and ask them if there are network providers close to your destination. Also ask about any prescription-drug coverage you might have if you get sick overseas.

If you have a separate pharmacy-benefit manager (PBM), call them and ask about overseas coverage and how to fill prescriptions abroad.

International Travel with Medication

Bring your health insurance card, but also bring copies of your medical records, if you’re not sure whether you’ll have online access to them.

Also, bring copies of all of your prescriptions – several copies, if you can. Spread around the copies, just as you’d spread around copies of your passport. You’re going to be frustrated if you lose your prescription medicine abroad and don’t have a refillable prescription with you.

Also, make sure you know the generic name of the drug you’re taking, as drugs can have different trade names in different countries.

This is especially important when flying with medication internationally, where your baggage will be scrutinized by customs checkpoints.

Download: The Essential International Travel Checklist

Flying with Medication

Don’t pack your prescription meds in checked luggage. This cannot be repeated enough. When flying with medication, do not pack your prescription medications in your checked luggage. No matter how small airlines’ lost-luggage rate has become, lost bags still happen. And if they happen to you and your prescription meds, you could be looking at a ruined vacation.

Tip: Travel insurance plans from Generali Global Assistance include 24-Hour Emergency Assistance Services that can help replace medication or eyeglasses on your trip.*  

Don’t forget your eyes

If you wear glasses or contact lenses, bring along a spare pair, as well as eyewear prescriptions. It’s amazing how frequently people break or lose their glasses when they’re on vacation.

Pack extras

Pack extra prescription medicine – as much as your doctor will prescribe and you can carry. Consider spreading around your meds in the same manner you spread around your prescriptions.

However, don’t put prescription meds in the little plastic pillboxes, unless you bring the original containers. 

Don’t adjust your meds to time-zone changes

If you take a medication at 8, 12, and 5 back home and you travel to India, don’t take the medication at 8, 12, and 5 Indian time. Try to take several-times-a-day medications at the equivalent of their back-home times. Time-zone changes are more of an external thing than an internal thing, and it’s important that you keep a consistent level of medication in your system.

Also read: How Travel Insurance Can Help if you need Medical Evacuation

woman packing luggage with travel first aid kit and sunscreen

Pack a travel first-aid kit

It’s a good idea to make your prescription meds part of a travel first-aid kit. Start with a general travel medical kit available from sporting-goods stores and pharmacies and stock it with:

  • Aspirin
  • Ibuprofen (Advil) or naproxen (Aleve)
  • An anti-diarrheal (Immodium)
  • A topical antibiotic
  • Aloe vera
  • An over-the-counter antacid (Maalox)
  • Earplugs
  • Motion or seasickness drugs or patches
  • Cough drops, OTC allergy medicine or some nasal spray

Depending on space, you may want to include:

  • A digital thermometer
  • Scissors
  • Tweezers
  • Bandages
  • Antibacterial wipes
  • A mirror
  • First-aid tape
  • Blister pads
  • Sunscreen
  • Insect repellant with at least 30 percent DEET

Also read: Need to Go to the Hospital on a Trip Abroad? Here's What to Do

Travel healthy

Part of traveling smart with prescription meds is traveling so you’re not adding to the amount of prescription meds you have to take.

While that starts with choosing appropriate destinations for your health level and medications, that also means eating and drinking smart and matching your level of exertion to your health level.

Also read: How To Stay Healthy and Avoid Getting Sick Before a Vacation

If you have heart trouble, it’s probably not a good idea to climb 1,000 stairs in a day. If you have ulcers, avoid the street food. If your medications have adverse reactions with alcohol, don’t drink.

It’s natural to want to throw caution to the wind when you’re on vacation. However, just a small amount of common sense can make the difference between a vacation where you stay on track with your prescription meds and everything goes swimmingly, and a vacation spent in doctors’ offices and pharmacies.

And, just in case, it’s a good idea to travel with trip insurance that includes coverages and services that can help if you have trouble with your medication on vacation.

*(Costs for shipping of medication or eyeglasses, or a prescription refill, etc. are the responsibility of the insured.)

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